I’m a reasonable person…at least I like to think so. Be prepared: A good motto in this crazy world we live in. However, recently I had the sneaky suspicion there might possibly be a breach in my credit. So, like a smart little cookie, I began to call the credit reporting agencies to freeze my account until such time I could determine the truth.
First call – TransUnion. I dial the proper number and a happy little individual chirped.
“Hello. My name is Sven. How may I be of assistance today.” I hesitated. For one thing, this gentleman named Sven didn’t sound even remotely like a fair haired Norwegian individual. He possessed the distinct accent of someone from a country located near the Bay of Bengal or perhaps the one adjoining beginning with the letter “P”.
“What country have I been connected to?” I asked politely.
“I am not at liberty to say. May I have your social security number, please?”
“Umm, not yet. Can you tell me, am I speaking to someone in the United States?”
“No, ma’am. Now, in order to assist you, may I have your social security number please?”
“No…I don’t think so. Can you connect me to someone in the states? Sven…was it?”
Let me preface, although polite, this man was somewhat difficult to understand and taking the name of “Sven” didn’t pass the smell test. But more importantly, I could not believe our three major credit reporting agencies would be outsourcing sensitive, private information. How did this happen? When did this happen? Further digging was required.
According to an article in sfgate.com, back in 2003, Congress amended the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Apparently, the change required the credit agencies to provide copies of personal credit files to anyone who asked. Kind of a stupid blanket amendment, I think. The credit agencies were aghast. The result would be expensive. TransUnion estimated the cost to be $350 billion a year. My guess is this is an exaggeration, however we will never know for sure and it suited their next move.Without much fanfare and accompanied by the typical vehement denials, slowly but surely, the three major credit reporting agencies began to outsource this sensitive material to companies they deemed secure outside the US. IMHO, inviting serious unintended consequences from an ill conceived idea not thoroughly thought out…on both Congress and Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.
Call me what you want, but I don’t remember anyone asking the opinion of John or Suzie Q Public if they wanted their personal information tossed out there like New Year’s confetti. While it’s understood security breaches can occur in the good ole US of A, the infrastructure to ensure protection may not be as secure in these outside countries. Furthermore, the US laws protecting the citizens aren’t necessarily enforceable over there. Feeling warm and fuzzy yet?
Originally Social Security numbers were only to be used to track individuals’ accounts within the Social Security program and were first issued in 1935 as part of the New Deal program. As a matter of fact, prior to 1986, parents didn’t have to register their children until they reached the age of 14. Prior to the Tax Reform Act of 1986, parents were expected to be honest and accurately report the number of children they claimed as dependents. I would like to report this piece of legislation as superfluous. Unfortunately the following year seven million fewer minors were claimed. Ah well, I digress.
From January 1946 through January 1972, Social Security cards expressly stated; NOT FOR IDENTIFICATION. It was later removed. And although the government can’t require anyone to reveal their Social Security number without a legal basis, nowadays one can’t finance a roll of toilet paper without providing one. It has no photograph, no address, no birth date or pertinent information other than those 9 digits permanently attached to all the nitty gritty details of a each and every individual. No such item in one’s wallet or purse holds the amount of power to destroy or build as that little card with those individual numbers and nothing is more openly shared, to the detriment of thousands.
You would think caretakers of such precious data would be more responsible and circumspect.
The architects of these decisions can best be described by only the last two syllables of the word oxymoron(s).